I can’t name the source of funding, but someone is pouring serious funding into the infrastructure of Croatia. They are clearly doing a lot to improve roads, and we drove on some of the best and newest in Europe I believe. Large bridges span valleys, freeways are smooth and have new guardrails, and river bridges are modern in design and obviously very new. The World Bank counts Croatia as a high income economy. About 2/3 of the GDP comes from the service sector, mainly tourism. Shipbuilding is a major industrial activity, and Croatia is beginning to export significant amounts of olive oil, wine, and lavender. I can personally attest to the quality of the wine and olive oil, particularly the former. Croatia is a candidate for EU membership, but is not yet in that organization. Their currency, the kuna (named for a type of weasel), is strong and stable. English is widely spoken and euros may often be used in place of the local currency.
Today’s journey took through the Primosten peninsula, one of the fine wine-growing areas of Croatia, to the ancient city of Trogir, through the seaside resort of Makarska, and then finally down through the Neretva delta
valley and into Dubrovnik.
Although there are said to be very rustic and scenic areas within the Primosten peninsula, it is better known for its beautiful coastline. Unfortunately, picture taking is difficult since the winding coastal roads on the bluffs above the blue water rarely allow for pulling off for photography. But rounding every curve brings a new and wonderful vista of bluffs and slopes coming down to the shore, islands offshore, and blue water with frequent inlets and beaches.
Last stop on the peninsula was the old town of Trogir. Trogir has a 2300 year urban history, and the street plan dates back to Hellenistic times. The entire old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is said to be the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in all of central Europe. It is actually closer to the Split airport than Split itself. Although it has had importance of other types in the past, it is now know mostly as a tourist center. The community of about 13,000 people has about 20,000 hotel rooms in the area. However, it did not seem overly crowded when we were there. We ate our usual bibulous lunch, toured the old city,
and then headed south past Split to the Makaraska Riviera.
The coast road around Makarska is similar to the coast road elsewhere, and the road crawls through a constant series of small towns. Most appear to be tourist meccas, and were inviting enough that I am sure they do well.
Just before a short jaunt through Bosnia and Herzegovina, we entered the Neretva valley. This fertile wetland is both a prominent farming area and a protected wetland. It contains many endangered species. The formerly widespread coot has been virtually eliminated from the region through “cukanje” hunting, in which its call is imitated, and the hope is that further species loss will be avoided. The wetlands are threatened by upstream development, particularly a plan by Bosnia-Herzegovina to install three hydroelectric dams.
The attached map shows us detouring through the Peljesac peninsula, because Google does not map Bosnie and Herzegovina for some reason. However, you can easily drive right through BiH to Dubrovnik, avoiding an unnecessary ferry trip. BiH apparently has retained this short strip that breaks up Croatia into two parts in order to have access to the sea. At present they have only a single tourist resort
town there (Neum). It does not look like a promising area for a seaport. In contradistinction to Croatia, BiH does not appear to be able to invest in infrastructure. The quality of the road immediately deteriorates when you enter the country. They have been slow to recover from the war and also to make the transition from socialism to capitalism, with industries with bloated staffs, high unemployment, and a high debt. They currently survive through heavy subsidies.
At last, we arrived in Dubrovnik, although the old city would remain hidden from us until the next day. Taking the recommendation of our hotel, we ate dinner at a nearby very nice restaurant, finding a large cluster of passion fruit vines with ripe fruit along the way to provide an early dessert.
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